CHAPEL HILL, United States - "I would not miss a golden chance to return to China," a Chinese young man pursuing a postdoctoral degree in the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said.
Wang Yang, 35, applied for postdoctoral positions of US universities without hesitation after graduating with a doctorate from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing five years ago, and so did all his 12 classmates.
Wang, wearing a lab coat and a pair of plastic gloves with his hands full with lab bench work, told Xinhua that he, along with his wife, came to the United States in 2007 with high expectations of building his specialty in ribonucleic acid biology and cancer.
Wang said his wife even gave up her own career and became a housewife for his development and career.
He recalled that when he first came to Chapel Hill, a college town near the state capital of Raleigh, in 2007, he was content about the routine working hours in the university lab and was impressed by the low housing prices here.
Houses are more affordable in Chapel Hill, taking the average income into account, than in China's northeastern coastal city of Dalian, his wife's hometown and one of the most livable Chinese cities, he said.
With financial support from his parents and parents-in-law, Wang has paid the first installment on his house and is about to "live in peace and then enjoy work," as the old Chinese saying goes.
In the eyes of his Chinese friends and relatives, Wang, a father of a three-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl, is leading an enviable American middle-class life. "Wang has a lovely family," said a Chinese doctoral student working with Wang in the same lab.
However, Wang admitted that it is increasingly hard to get funding from the National Institute of Health, affiliated with the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Wang said that China, while still lagging behind the United States in some areas, has raced ahead over the past decade and is now the world's second-largest economy, and the Chinese government is allocating more resources to scientific studies.
Pushed by a sour US job market and pulled by China's promising prospects, great opportunities and policy supports for high-tech elites, Wang wonders whether he should return to China or continue to stay in the United States.
Wang said that it was a wise decision to come to the United States as it had been an eye-opening experience for him, but his passion to do something for his home country remains strong.
"China is my home country," Wang said, echoing the words of many Chinese students who are studying abroad but still following developments back home.
"If there is no appropriate position for me in the short term, however, I prefer to work in the US for more years to establish my academic reputation," he added.
Since the US government relaxed its visa policy, it has been easier for Chinese dream-chasers to come to the country. A report by the Institute of International Education said international students of Chinese origin lead all foreign students in the United States, with 157,558 Chinese students studying in US universities in the 2010-2011 academic year, up 23 percent year-on-year.
But more and more of them choose to return to China after the launching of the "1,000-elite program" by the Chinese government in late 2008 to attract overseas Chinese talents to work back home.
Statistics from the Chinese Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security showed that the number of students returning to China was climbing steadily from 2008 to 2011, totaling from 69,300 to 186,300.
For Wang, three of his 12 doctoral classmates have returned to China to take positions they believe would serve as better platforms for their careers, Wang said.
He said one of the three returnees, who is working in Southwest China's Kunming Institute of Zoology, a research center affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told him he felt very good.
In addition to job prospects, actual problems, including family, also play a role in Wang's decision-making and motivate him to go back to China.
Wang's parents and parents-in-law have visited them in Chapel Hill alternatively since the young couple had their first child. "It's difficult for old Chinese people to adjust to a US lifestyle because of cultural differences and language barriers," he said.
Moreover, Wang and his wife, both being the only child in their original families, are also bound to take the responsibility of nursing their four aging parents.
"Life in the US is simple and comfortable," Wang said. But he paused for a second and went on talking about the good old days when he hung out with folks back in Beijing.
"No fancy Chinese food, no karaoke. I'm used to the tranquility here," he said.
Wang may not have an answer to his question soon. But like many other overseas Chinese elites, returned or not, he will eventually strike a delicate balance between his future development and family.